2019 Legislative Session - Week 6

Posted on Monday, February 25, 2019

House Republicans introduced their FY20 budget targets Tuesday (set out below), which call for slightly more spending than Governor Kim Reynolds proposed. Under the House plan, Standing Appropriations (or “Standings”) would receive the most funding, $3.86 billion.   The Standings bill is typically the last piece of legislation passed each session, and includes state employee salaries and remaining policy items legislators and lobbyists are trying to pass.  Health and Human Services would receive the next-largest appropriation, at more than $1.9 billion, a $21 million cut from last fiscal year.

The House GOP also called for $961 million in education funding, their third-largest budget item. That money has already been appropriated, with Reynolds signing two K-12 spending bills this week.  The House Republican targets assume a roughly $7.668 billion total budget. The Revenue Estimating Conference might adjust that figure in their March meeting.

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are steadily moving toward a consensus on sports betting, with a Senate bill passing the State Government Committee Thursday.  Sen. Roby Smith (R-Davenport), who chairs the committee, introduced the measure.  It would make Iowa’s 19 casinos exclusively eligible to host sports betting and fantasy sports gambling.  Under SSB 1168, Iowans who are at least 21 years old could set up an account by visiting a casino in-person.   After that, their account would also be available for online gaming. 

The proposal passed on a largely party-line vote, 8-6.  The bill must now pass the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee before it can reach the floor for debate. 

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) is heading the legalization effort in the House.  His bill, HSB 198, unanimously passed out of subcommittee Thursday. The full State Government Committee, which Kaufmann chairs, is expected to consider the measure next week.  It’s very similar to Smith’s version, but sets the revenue tax at 6.75 percent, and requires casinos to pay a $15,000 annual fee to host sports betting.  The daily fantasy sports licensing fee would be $5,000 each year.

Also this week, Governor Reynolds set Tuesday, March 19 as the date for the Senate District 30 special election.  Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) recently vacated his seat, which covers Cedar Falls, Hudson and part of Waterloo.  Walt Rogers, who lost his House reelection campaign to Democrat Dave Williams last November, will be the GOP nominee.  Rogers narrowly lost his bid to unseat Danielson in 2008.  Area Democrats will gather to select their candidate.  UNI Associate Professor Amy Petersen, Cedar Falls School Board members Eric Giddens and Sasha Wohlpert, and John Deere employee and union activist Tom Ralston are all vying for the nomination.